Malala Yousafzai urges Blinken to ensure Afghan girls have access to education

Activist spoke on behalf of girls unable to attend secondary school under the Taliban’s repressive regime in Afghanistan

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In a meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Washington on Monday, education and women’s rights activist Malala Yousafzai advocated the education of Afghan girls.

Her request follows the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan after the chaotic withdrawal of US forces from Kabul in August.

“Afghanistan is the only country right now that girls do not have access to secondary education,” Ms Yousafzai told Mr Blinken. “They’re prohibited from learning.”

Ms Yousafzai said she hoped to deliver a letter addressed to President Joe Biden from a 15-year-old Afghan girl detailing the school closures put into effect by the Taliban.

“We hope that the US, together with the UN, will take immediate actions to ensure that girls are allowed to go back to their schools as soon as possible and all the humanitarian assistance that is needed for education there is provided,” Ms Yousafzai said.

“We know this has been a challenge and we want more focus to be given to education and teacher salaries.”

Mr Blinken said he looked forward to talking with Ms Yousafzai about her work and hearing “her ideas about how we can be more effective” in pushing for gender equality.

Ms Yousafzai, the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize winner, survived a 2012 assassination attempt at the hands of a Taliban gunman in her home country of Pakistan over her advocacy to ensure girls’ access to education in areas controlled by the extremist group.

The Afghan Taliban have barred girls from attending school in grades seven through 12 since taking over the country but has permitted girls in grades one through six to keep attending school – albeit in gender segregated classes for the older pupils.

The Taliban upheld a near total ban on education for girls when they first ruled Afghanistan in the 1990s.

The Taliban takeover has also made it harder for non-profit groups to deliver assistance for development projects in sectors such as education.

The Biden administration has sought to continue US assistance to Afghanistan through non-profit groups and the Treasury Department issued humanitarian sanctions licences on the Taliban to improve the delivery of humanitarian aid.

The US also froze billions in Afghanistan’s reserve funds after the Taliban takeover.

Updated: December 06, 2021, 6:23 PM